BATON ROUGE, La. -- Coaches like to say the first day of preseason practice feels a lot like Christmas morning. It’s their first true opportunity to take most of the freshmen on the field with their new teammates and see what they can do.
LSU’s coaches tossed a handful of their newcomers into the deep end right away on Thursday, allowing freshmen such as defensive ends Arden Key and Isaiah Washington and cornerbacks Kevin Toliver, Donte Jackson and Xavier Lewis to practice with the veterans in the Tigers’ first preseason practice.
Most of the reserves and additional signees were set to return to the practice field later Thursday afternoon. But practicing in the morning with the starters might indicate good things for the aforementioned freshmen. LSU coach Les Miles said on Wednesday that Key and Washington will get a chance to compete for playing time at end, and he said the same of the three freshman cornerbacks.
Here are some short videos of the freshmen working in individual drills Thursday morning.
Toliver (2), Jackson (1) and Lewis (17) in a defensive back drill:
White dons No. 18 for first time
Miles awarded junior Tre’Davious White with the team’s prestigious No. 18 jersey at a team meeting Wednesday night, and White wore it for the first time in practice Thursday morning.
According to LSU, the No. 18 jersey goes to a team leader who “displays a selfless attitude while representing the Tigers in a first-class manner both on and off the field.” The jersey tradition dates back to quarterback Matt Mauck in 2003 and has been awarded to likes of running back Jacob Hester, defensive lineman Bennie Logan and, last season, running back Terrence Magee.
“I actually thought [senior linebacker Deion] Jones was going to get it,” said White, who was recently selected as a second-team preseason All-SEC cornerback. “But I plan on wearing it with class and doing all the right things that all the 18s before me have done, being a leader of the team.”
Here is a video of White in his new jersey participating in a pass gantlet. Note that the second participant in the video is Jackson, whose track-star speed might someday make him a weapon as a kick return specialist:
Louis in green, linebackers cross-training
The only non-quarterback wearing a green noncontact jersey in the morning practice was senior linebacker Lamar Louis.
Louis said he strained a pectoral muscle while attempting to bench press 420 pounds recently, but said he was at about 90 percent health and should return to full participation in a few days.
Louis and fellow strongside linebacker Duke Riley said new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Kevin Steele intends to cross-train his linebackers at multiple spots this preseason. Not only will that improve the group’s versatility, but it will help alleviate concerns about a depth shortage at the position.
“When you can plug any guy in at different places, that really helps,” Louis said. “I think [former LSU linebacker] Kelvin Sheppard, back when he played, you could plug him in at any position, any spot, and he could play for you. So I think that’s one of the biggest things, especially when you have depth problems. But I think it’s mainly because we have about five guys who can all go, so we could plug different guys at different places and that would be our advantage.”
Louis and Riley are both learning multiple traditional jobs in the base defense and also some of the linebacker roles in the nickel and dime defenses.
The more players who can switch between positions, the more flexibility Steele will have should injuries or ineffective play become factors at linebacker.
“Whoever goes down, I go in or we all can do it,” Riley said. “That’s the good thing about it.”
Harris, Jennings in a.m. practice
Both Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings participated in the morning practice session, a departure from the first few practices last year when they alternated between morning and afternoon workouts.
For what it’s worth, Harris was the first quarterback to take a snap during individual drills.
One last thing ...
Just because it’s fun to listen to him, here’s a video of new defensive line coach Ed Orgeron working with defensive end Tashawn Bower (46) and defensive tackle Christian LaCouture (91) in a morning pass-rush drill.